Best deal on the table?

Steinbrenner: Our Santana offer is 'best'

NEW YORK -- Returning from their holiday recess, the Yankees still have what senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner believes is the best offer to finalize a deal for Twins ace Johan Santana.

Steinbrenner told the New York Daily News in Thursday's editions that the Yankees will work on a final decision regarding their potential trade for the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, perhaps drawing the months-old process to conclusion.

"I think the Twins realize our offer is the best one," Steinbrenner told the newspaper. "I feel confident they're not going to trade him before checking with us one last time, and I think they think we've already made the best offer."

Discussions with Minnesota have largely revolved around the inclusion of right-hander Phil Hughes and outfielder Melky Cabrera, though the Yankees balked when the Twins pressed to add right-hander Ian Kennedy to the package.

New York has deemed Joba Chamberlain -- on his way to the starting rotation after a stunning debut as a setup man -- to be untouchable, though it is believed that pitching prospect Jeff Marquez could go to the Twins in a potential Santana trade.

"It's still the best one," Steinbrenner said. "And let's face it, we're the best able to handle the kind of contract [extension] Santana will be after."

The allure of acquiring Santana is easy to figure on the Yankees' behalf, especially with the rival Red Sox still involved in the discussions.

"At the same time, we won't be in it to keep him from them," Steinbrenner said. "Each team is in it for what they can handle. We have great young pitching, that's the main plan. Do we want to put Santana in there, who's 29 [in March], to be an ace for a few years? I know a majority of fans don't want to lose Hughes."

Santana was 15-13 with a 3.29 ERA in 32 starts for the Twins in 2007, walking 49 and striking out 235 in 219 innings, including a 17-strikeout performance on Aug. 19 against the Rangers.

Santana led the AL in strikeouts for three consecutive years from 2004-06, including winning the ERA title twice. He owns a full no-trade clause and would need to approve any deal to a potential suitor, which would also likely require a contract extension that could fetch as much as six years and $120 million.

Hot Stove

Steinbrenner said that the dialogue between the Yankees and Twins -- mostly on hold since the Yankees' self-imposed a deadline during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., early in December -- is expected to increase.

"We're not desperate, so we're not going to chase anything," Steinbrenner said. "In the next two weeks, we're going to have to get everything done. I either have to do [a Santana deal] or don't do it, same thing for the Red Sox, I guess.

"I think the Twins would like to keep him, so I don't think there's any hurry on anyone's part. It all depends on what he asks for in an extension. You obviously have to be very careful with pitchers, for obvious reasons."

Steinbrenner said that even if the Yankees stand pat and do not acquire Santana, their chances for the 2008 season should be strong.

"We're going to have the best pitching by far in baseball in two or three years, and we'll be tough this year," Steinbrenner said. "We obviously already have position players."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.